Here’s What We Learned from the Bruins 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night to wrap up a rough three-game road trip for the Black and Gold.
1) The Bruins need to focus almost solely on the bad starts right now. Once again they dropped down to a 2-0 deficit in the first period, and then had to start digging out as they did in both of the other games that they lost on the three-goal road trip. Just as they also did in wins over teams like Carolina, Florida and Ottawa. This time the B’s allowed a goal just 1:08 into the game when the fourth line made a crucial mistake with all three forwards caught below the goal line as Winnipeg went on the counterattack. Sprinkle in a power play goal for the Jets a little bit later on in the period, and it’s all the ingredients needed for the Black and Gold to dig a significant hole. They’ve tried starting the fourth line to give some energy right off the bat and they’ve tried going with Patrice Bergeron as a way to set a standard for the focus in the first period, but nothing is working right now for the Bruins. If the B’s don’t find a way to fix this particular problem, they won’t last very long against playoff-caliber teams in the playoffs that can take full advantage of that.
2) One of the positives for the Bruins was the play of Charlie Coyle, who finally broke through his goal-scoring drought to start his career with the Black and Gold. It was a strong play where the 26-year-old got to the front of the net and tipped home a Zdeno Chara point shot with some pretty solid hand/eye coordination. It’s exactly the spot in the offensive zone that the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder needs to get to in order to create offense for whichever line that he’s on, and exactly the kind of thing Boston had in mind when they traded for him. It was beyond the goal for Coyle, however, as he finished with three shots on net, five shot attempts overall and a hit in 17:48 of ice time. It seems that Coyle has actually been a little more effective playing the wing in a top-6 spot rather than driving the third line as the man in the middle, and that will be something for the Bruins to keep in mind as they look for a fit with him headed into the postseason.
3) Joakim Nordstrom showed on Thursday night why he’s in the lineup ahead of young players that might not be quite ready for prime time (Karson Kuhlman) and young players that might not ever be ready for prime time (Peter Cehlarik). There’s a distinction between those two, but neither of them is as useful, reliable or capable of making an impact in these late season games as Nordstrom has become. That’s something the people grousing about Cehlarik’s trip back to the P-Bruins don’t seem to understand despite a pretty clear body of evidence that he was struggling at the NHL level in these big, late season games. Sure, the goal Nordstrom scored against Winnipeg snapped a 25-game goal-scoring drought where he wasn’t exactly bringing the offense. But he’s never going to be a prolific offense producer at the NHL level, and really shouldn’t ever be counted on to play top-6 minutes for a team making a Cup run. But he’s perfectly fine in a pinch when the B’s are missing three of their top-4 wingers with injuries, and he also gave a spark to the fourth line with his goal in the first period that finally got Boston moving in the right direction. It was pure grit as Nordstrom attacked the net for the rebound of a Sean Kuraly shot, and then was able to put it home to get Boston on the board. Beyond that he had three shots on net, a couple of hits and the goal in 9:51 of ice time, and made the most of his limited opportunities. That is something that guys like Cehlarik and Kuhlman really don’t seem capable of doing at this point in their young careers, and that’s why Nordstrom sticks around and plays while those players fight for playing time at the NHL level.
--Joakim Nordstrom snapped a 25-game goal-scoring drought with a hustle rebound goal early in the game, and packed plenty of quality in his 9:51 of ice time while bouncing around the Bruins lineup.
--Charlie Coyle scored his first goal as a member of the Bruins in the third period, and more importantly did it by using his size and strength to get close to the net for a tipped Zdeno Chara shot. Coyle arguably had his best game in a Bruins uniform on the wing, which is interesting food for thought.
--Mark Schiefele finished with a goal and three points for the Winnipeg Jets, and was really driving the engine for a deep Jets attack that was simply too much for the Black and Gold.
--Tuukka Rask allowed four goals on 24 shots and wasn’t really his brick wall best against Winnipeg. Certainly the defense in front of him wasn’t great either as evidenced by a couple of tap-ins on the first few goals, but Rask also needs to find his best game at this late point in the season.
--Chris Wagner was on the ice for a couple of goals against, and was part of a fourth line that got way too aggressive while up the ice and opened up things for the Winnipeg transition game on the first goal allowed just 1:08 into the first.
--Danton Heinen coughed up the puck to sharp-shooting Nikolaj Ehlers midway through the third period for the back-breaking fourth goal allowed to Winnipeg that ended up being the game-winner. The turnover right in the slot area was a killer.
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